Women’s soccer team falls in bronze medal game

An outstanding season by the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ women’s soccer team culminated with disappointment and heartbreak on the weekend.

The squad finished fourth place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs, after losing the bronze medal game 3-2 in penalty kicks to the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

“We were expecting more,” said stand-out Hawks midfielder Heather Malizia. “We had high expectations for ourselves this season so it was disappointing.”

Entering the final four tournament, hosted by York University, the Hawks were looking to defend their OUA title and had to play without star midfielder Alyssa Lagonia, who was called up to train with Canada’s national team.

The Queen’s Gaels crushed any hopes of a Laurier championship with a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday afternoon in the semi-finals.

Kelli Chamberlain had a standout game for the Gaels, scoring twice, including once in the last minute of the first extra frame, to send the Gaels to the championship game.

Hawks’ veteran Tania Pedron performed some late game heroics to send the game into overtime, scoring in the 81st minute of regulation, tying the game at one.

But the Gaels proved to be too much in the extra frames as they pulled out to a 3-1 lead.

Forward Sarah Houghton brought the Hawks closer with a goal in the second overtime period, but that would be as close as the purple and gold would come.

The Gaels went on to lose in the finals to the York Lions.

The next day, the dismayed Hawks fought for the bronze medal against a powerful Gee-Gees squad in a rematch of last year’s finals.

Despite goals from Julia Marchese and Krista Cellucci, the Gee-Gees would take the bronze by a painfully familiar score of 3-2.

Following the theme of the weekend, the game concluded in dramatic fashion as regulation and overtime solved nothing; the game needed to be decided by penalty kicks.

In the free-shot festivities, Laurel Fougere was the hero for Ottawa, as she buried a shot past Laurier goalkeeper Tristin Vogel in the sixth round of kicks.

“It was sad because there are a couple of players graduating this year, so for that to be their last game of the season was emotional,” said Malizia.

Those players are midfielder Kristin Chalmers, defenders Paige and Savannah Heathcote and team captain Sara Hopper.

“She was a leader on the team,” said a remorseful Malizia of Hopper. “She’s obviously a really good player and brought so much experience.”

The team may not have been able to defend their championship title, but Malizia feels the experience they’ve gathered this past year has been invaluable.

“At the beginning of the year, there are all these new players and a couple of team-bonding experiences and the team dinners brought everyone closer,” she explained.

The Golden Hawks also had a strong presence in the individual awards category, as Malizia, Pedron, Ali McKee and Alyssa Lagonia all earned first-team OUA all-star accolades, with Hopper being named an OUA second-team all-star and head coach Barry MacLean winning his second OUA Coach of the Year award.

“It’s always nice to be recognized, but individual awards don’t mean anything compared to a championship,” said Malizia.

She feels that with defeat comes opportunity for growth in the future.

“The core group of players is coming back next year, and we’ll have learned from this year for sure.”